Before we look at the lifestyle factors that can increase our risk of autoimmune diseases, let’s look at some facts according to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, AARDA and the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, ASCIA.
Living With Autoimmune Disease Facts
“Autoimmune diseases are a broad range of related diseases in which a person’s immune system produces an inappropriate response against its own cells, tissues and/or organs, resulting in inflammation and damage.
There are over 80 different autoimmune diseases, and these range from common to very rare diseases.
Some autoimmune diseases affect mainly one part of the body (such as multiple sclerosis, autoimmune thyroid disease, type 1 diabetes) whilst others affect many parts of the body at the same time (such as systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis and systemic vasculitis)
Autoimmune diseases affect around 1 in 20 people and are one of the most important health issues in Australia and New Zealand.
Common autoimmune diseases such as thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes affect more than 1 in 100 people. In contrast, a rare autoimmune disease such as Goodpasture’s disease (a form of vasculitis) affects around 1 in a million people.” Source ASCIA
The National Institute of Health (NIH) estimates up to 23.5* million Americans suffer from autoimmune disease and that the prevalence is rising.
However AARDA say that 50 million* Americans suffer from autoimmune disease. Why the difference? The NIH numbers only include 24 diseases for which good epidemiology studies were available.
Researchers have identified 80-100 different autoimmune diseases and suspect at least 40 additional diseases of having an autoimmune basis. These diseases are chronic and can be life-threatening.
Autoimmune disease is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in female children and women in all age groups up to 64 years of age.
Commonly used immunosuppressant treatments lead to devastating long-term side effects.
Symptoms cross many specialties and can affect all body organs.
Medical education provides minimal learning about autoimmune disease.
Specialists are generally unaware of inter-relationships among the different autoimmune diseases or advances in treatment outside their own specialty area.
Initial symptoms are often intermittent and unspecific until the disease becomes acute.
NIH estimates up to 23.5 million Americans* have an AD. In comparison, cancer affects up to 9 million and heart disease up to 22 million. Source AARDA
The causes of autoimmune disease are unknown, however, research does lean towards there being an inherited tendency towards developing an autoimmune disease.
What I would like to bring awareness to, is the science of epigenetics and how our lifestyle choices can increase the risk of triggering an autoimmune disease, which if you are genetically more susceptible to developing an auto immune disease, an understanding for the science of epigenetics is even more important.
For example if you got into a car which you knew had a partially flat tire, or tires, that needed changing because the grip wasn’t 100%, would you drive that car in the same way as you would a brand new car?
No, you would drive with more caution making careful choices along the way as to how fast you where going etc.
Well having a genetic or inherited gene mutation that increases your risk to developing an autoimmune disease requires you to make choices with even more care and awareness for the cause and effect than someone who doesn’t have a gene mutation.
The key point being, it’s your choices that influence the expression of your genes. Through each choice we make we have the potential to suppress our genetic potential and express our genetic weaknesses or suppress our genetic weaknesses and express our genetic potential.
As a preventive holistic health practitioner, my focus is on the preventive lifestyle factors that reduce the risk of developing disease.
It just so happens that these preventive lifestyle factors are also the keys to managing, elevating and in some cases even reversing chronic diseases such as Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease affecting the thyroid gland.
Inflammation, we now know, is at the root cause of 98% of diseases and autoimmune disease is no exception here. In order to create a favorable healing environment for the body it is essential to make lifestyle choices that are going to quell inflammation in the body.
Below Are 7 Keys To Reducing Cellular Oxidative Damage Caused By Chronic Inflammatory Responses.
1. Follow An Anti – Inflammatory Diet
Come off all the processed and added sugars, including “healthy” liquid sugars like fruit juices and Gatorade! Significantly reduce your intake of fresh fruit, stick to the berry family, green apples and pears, slightly un-ripened bananas.
Secondly come off all refined starches such as cereals and grains. There is so much conclusive and compelling evidence now that links gluten to autoimmune disease, and you don’t have to be a celiac to fall prey to its destructive autoimmune stimulating antigens.
Thirdly cut out all refined vegetable oils and processed fats, they feed the fire creating global cellular oxidative stress.
Choose some clean pasture fed meat or chicken (grain and corn free), fresh wild fish and fresh vegetables and salad with healthy fats choices like nuts, seeds, avocado, butter, ghee and coconut oil.
2. Address Food Sensitivities
If you know you’re sensitive or intolerant to certain foods, then get off them! Every time you have them you create an inflammatory response from the immune system, which increase, you risk to leaky gut and eventually an autoimmune disease.
The most common food sensitivities are gluten, preservatives and yeast in alcohol, foods containing amines such as histamine, tyramine and phenylethylamine, lactose or casein in dairy, nuts, soy and eggs.
If you’re not sure then either seek a comprehensive food intolerance test or follow a clinical food rotation diet.
3. Move Right!
Learning to move in a way that supports the body to pump and balance its biological oscillators (heart, brain and digestive system) is a vital component to taming the fire.
Movement when prescribed correctly can reduce stress and inflammatory hormones such as cortisol, improve circulation and flush out inflammatory free radicals in circulation.
Seeking the advice of an experienced exercise specialist that is holistic in their approach and understands exercise and it physiological effects are in my opinion a must.
4. Manage Your Stress.
There is nothing more pro inflammatory than stinkin’ thinkin’! Exposure to periods of prolonged negative thoughts and stressful events increases cortisol and elevates blood sugar levels, increasing insulin levels.
A perpetual cycle that is extremely pro inflammatory while suppressing the immune system. The links between stress, and all disease shows that managing stress becomes a critical component of the preventable lifestyle.
Taking a yin yoga class, learning mindfulness techniques, spending more time in nature and engaging in something creative are just a few examples for what is available to you to help reduce stress levels.
5. Tame The Fire With Sleep.
You have heard me say it before, research shows that sleep is the chief anabolic (healing) force available to man. It’s free and when both the quality and quantity is in balance then you have the healing advantage no money can buy.
Insufficient quality and quantity of sleep will keep the hormonal fires burning, impacting the body’s ability to neutralize and dispose of toxic waste which only happens whilst you’re asleep.
Going to sleep by 10 pm and rising by 6 am or with the sun has a positive effect on every system of the body, especially the hormonal System.
For a better night’s sleep, minimise your exposure to bright lights, especially fluorescent lights and EMF’s for at least 2 hours before bed. Avoid inflammatory choices like a “workout”, caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and too close to bed as they will stoke the fire while you sleep!
6. Drink Adequate Amounts Of Quality Water Between Meals.
Water provides the energy and information required for all biochemical reactions to take place. Water is therefore a vital component to not only help put the fire out but flush the waste by products of all that we are exposed to within our environment.
Use this formula from the research by Dr. Batmangheildj in his book, Your Body’s Many Cries for Water. Calculate 0.033 x kg (your body weight) = the minimum amount in litres you need to be consuming per day.
7. Chemical Free Zone.
The reality of today is that it’s not just what we put in our bodies but also what we put on our bodies and what we are exposed to within our environments. GMO foods, glyphosate from pesticides and BT toxins are one of the environments greatest health risks.
Their poisons have been linked to multiple diseases including autoimmune disorders.
Other consideration are within your personal hygiene products and home cleaning products, even down to the BPA plastic containers, aluminum foil and glad wrap used to cover foods.
The more you are at risk of developing an autoimmune disease or in the position of living with one, then becoming more discerning and diligent to what you choose to use within your environment becomes paramount. A great resource for more information on toxic chemicals to avoid is ewg.org
Reclaiming your health lies in the power of awareness and choice. You don’t know what you don’t know, but once you do, there is no going back!
Yours in good health
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Joanna Rushton – Energy Coach